LGBT Youth Scotland development manager Cara Spence spoke to TFN about how young people are engaging with the referendum
TFN: Are young people engaged with the referendum?
Cara: The majority of young people certainly seem to be engaged in the referendum. For some they are already very politically active and interested in politics so their right to vote is really important to them; for others it’s all pretty new and they’re listening carefully to the media, their peers and family in order to make their decision.
TFN: What are the matters your members care about most?
Cara: Young people are interested in all aspects of the referendum debate. They’re not necessarily interested in those topics that will only affect Scotland's youth as ultimately this decision will affect them in adulthood too. They recognise that this debate is about the future of Scotland and an important decision to make.I would say that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people are broadly interested in equality and want to ensure that Scotland is a safe, supportive and inclusive environment for them to grow-up in. In all our consultations with young people education is a key theme for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people. They want to ensure that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is being addressed in schools, universities and colleges and that education is broadly inclusive.
TFN: How do they think both campaigns have been going – are young people’s needs being met?
They’re not necessarily interested in those topics that will only affect Scotland's youth as ultimately this decision will affect them in adulthood too.
Cara: I’m unsure about campaign engagement but certainly there are resources and information out there for young people like the Aye Naw Mibbe resource developed by the Scottish Youth Parliament and the Wee Play game for communities generally, as well as posters that encourage young people to vote etc. So it’s certainly been considered..
TFN: Will either result have a major effect on young people?
Cara: That depends on who you believe. In my discussions with young people that’s the challenge generally. Who do they believe when both sides have polarised views? And each side say they have ‘research’ or ‘the facts’ to back their position.
TFN: Do they think it was right the voting age was changed?
Cara: Very much so! Our National Youth Council has historically supported young people’s right to vote and recognise that they should have a say in all aspects of their lives. They know this is an important decision and that it will have an impact on them. I see them engaging in discussions and debates just as much as adults.
TFN: What has your organisation done to get young voters involved?
Cara: We’ve been running registration drives, delivering workshops at our local youth groups, putting up posters, using social media to share info, everything we can really. We also ran an event with around 60 young people where we used the Wee Play game to generate discussion.
TFN: How many young people will turn out?
Cara: I’ve got my fingers crossed that there will be a good turn-out. There are lots of barriers to young people getting involved as a first time voter but I really hope that young people will register, and of course turn up on the day. There’s lots we can do to help though, encouraging young people to go along together and having discussions not only about their decision but where to vote etc.It would be great if we could evidence that young people do care and want a say in how Scotland is run generally. If it works out, even on a small scale it could begin a new debate on lowering the age of voting across the board.